Phlebosophy 101


A while back I took my wife to the hospital for a CAT scan.

After we checked in at the front desk, we waited in a room where my wife talked to a nice young man who tagged and labeled her like a prize bull at the county fair. He took us to another room to fill out forms that asked if she was experiencing testicular pain or if she was perhaps pregnant. Then they guided us to a third room to put in the needle through which they would inject contrast.

All routine hospital stuff.

The trouble started when the nurse couldn’t find a vein, so she fetched an expert, called a phlebotomist. The expert also couldn’t find a vein, so together they called the phlebologist, an expert’s expert on all kinds of troubles with veins. The phlebologist pronounced my wife’s veins perfectly normal, but — being an expert’s expert — refused to touch the needles himself and do the phlebotomy. So the three of them argued until they decided to call in the phlebosophist, an academic specialist who knows about theories and beliefs about veins, hoping he could resolve their dispute.

The argument grew louder, and phlebophiles of all kinds crowded into the room. I could see the phlebophobes slink by outside: the noise attracted them, but they turned away with gray faces when the heard the topic of argument.

The phlebometrist was called to measure my wife’s veins, and a phlebographer to sketch them as a visual aid. This last one made a very nice drawing, with “here there be dragons” and three-masted schooners in the margins, and one of the nurses said he should send a copy to National Phlebographic.

They argued angles of approach, some holding out for a lateral phlebotomy, others insisting on a full-frontal phlebotomy. A few even wanted an exploratory phlebectomy just to find out what was really wrong with her veins, and wanted us down in the phleboratory, stat.

Several men in dark cloaks with pronounced widow’s peaks and glittering eyes drifted silently into the room: some settled in to watch, while others flipped upside down and hung from the ceiling by their toes. They seemed ominous to me, so I nudged one of the nurses and asked who they were. She replied they were phlebomites and phlebotites, but she could never remember which kind hung from the ceiling.

At this point I stood up and said, “Excuse me.”

They all stopped arguing and stared at me. “Who are you?” demanded the phlebosophist.

“I’m her husband,” I answered.

I could see the distaste on every face, and the phlebosophist spoke for all: “Oh, a phlebian.” I could hear the contemptuous word chase itself around the room like the squeaking of bats. “Phleeb.” “Phleeb.” “Phleeb.”

I jumped and snorted loudly as my wife kicked my ankle. “You’re snoring,” she said.

I looked around the empty room. Some kind of medical monitor bleeped in the distance.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she answered. “They just went to get a phlebotomist.”

I made a quick excuse and left for some coffee.

Blue Triangles

A week ago last Thursday, Marta broke her foot.

Most people who know me nod sagely when I tell them this.

“You had a hammer in your hip pocket,” they say. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m getting tired of hearing it.

No, she was painting the stairwell and took one step down onto the landing. Just a plain, ordinary step down. Something went wrong, and her fifth metatarsus snapped in two places, and her fourth metatarsus cracked. The X-Ray was not pretty.

“No weight on that foot for two weeks,” the osteo-whatever —  the bone doctor said. “None whatsoever. It looks like it will heal straight without pins, and we’ll take another look in two weeks. But you can’t put any weight on it. Or any other kind of stress,” he added, with a sharp look at me.

So we got Marta a wheelchair, and a little scooter you ride on one knee, and a boot, and a bottle of painkillers. And I’ve been running errands. Water. More water. A toothbrush. The special toothpaste. Oh, and some floss. And the water pick. No, not that water pick, the other one. And a nail file.

It’s been a long week.

Today, we decided we really needed to get our tax information together. I mean, we have two weeks, but our accountant gets a little testy when I bring in stuff on April 14 and say, “But you have a WHOLE DAY LEFT!”

So Marta wanted the Tax File.

“It’s downstairs in my office,” she said, and I started down the stairs. “Now hold on a second. It’s in the bottom desk drawer to the right of my chair. Pull it out, and all the folders are sideways. There’s a manilla folder in there marked ‘Taxes 2011’ — it’s probably not in alphabetical order, so you may have to search, but it’s the second or third folder back.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. I pulled out the drawer, and went through the whole thing — no folder marked ‘Taxes 2011’. I went through the three folders on her desk, and then hit the big filing system to the left of her chair. No success.

“Honey, I can’t find it!” I complained. “Say, didn’t I ask you for that file a week ago? I think it’s up in my office.”

I went upstairs and searched my office but it wasn’t there either.

“This is too stressful,” I said. “I’m gonna go blog.”

“Wait a minute,” Marta said. “You’re right. You did ask for it, and the file is on the corner of your desk closest to the window, under a plastic box full of wires and cables. It has a white Tyvek envelope in it with green triangles around the edges.”

“I thought you said it was a manilla folder,” I said.

“Yes, it’s a manilla folder with an envelope inside it with green triangles around the edge. The envelope sticks out.”

I trudged back upstairs and moved the box of cables. Sure enough, there was the manilla folder labelled ‘Taxes 2011’ with a white Tyvek envelope in it. I took it back down to Marta.

“They’re blue,” I groused.

“What?” Marta said.

“The triangles are blue. Not green. No wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“What?!” Marta said.

“Look, maybe I can’t tell the difference between mauve and purple, but I do know blue from green. And these are definitely blue triangles. You can’t give me misleading directions like that. How do you expect me to find anything?”

Marta’s face was screwed up tight, and she was biting her lip pretty hard.

“Do you need another Tylenol?” I asked.

“Just give me the file,” she choked out.

I handed her the file and headed back to my office to blog. I don’t know what she found in the tax file that was so damn funny, but a few seconds after I left, she started laughing. More like whooping with laughter. Sounded like she was pounding on the arms of the chair, too.

They say laughter is the best medicine.


Teri and Joe, two of our dearest friends, invited us over for dinner tomorrow night.  We were asked to bring only ourselves, and — if so inspired — a topic of conversation.

Marta had almost finished remodeling the mid-level bathroom, and so our minds were both stuck in a bit of a rut somewhere between Home and Home Depot. Marta asked me what I thought would make a good topic.

“Parrot green, ” I answered without hesitation.

“Parrot green? What are you talking about?”

I drew my attention away from the Funny Times and looked up. “Uh, you just asked me what would be a good color to pick? Right?”

She rolled her eyes. “I asked what would be a good TO-PIC. To discuss. At Teri and Joe’s.” She spoke loudly and distinctly.

“Oh.” I thought for a moment. “Parrot green would be a fine topic of conversation.”

“I just covered apple-green walls with two layers of Kilz. We’re not going with parrot green.”

“You’re still thinking that yellow-thing.”

“It’s a very nice yellow. And I’ve already bought the paint.”

“But the kitchen is yellow. We need some contrast!”

“We are not going to our friends’ house to talk about parrot green!”

“Why not? I want a second opinion, and who better to ask?”

The conversation went downhill rapidly from there. Since we couldn’t decide on either a topic or a color, we decided to bring wine instead — in vino est veritas — so we headed out to the big wine store. By the time we reached the parking lot, we had come to an agreement that both parrot green and yellow were topics that were far too risky for dinner.

“Mauve,” I said. “Everyone likes mauve.”

“Fine,” Marta replied. “That’s a kind of pink, it will go well with the wine. We can talk about mauve.”

“No, it’s more of a purple. Or maroon.”

“It’s dark? I thought it was a light color.”

Inside the store, I went up to one of the clerks, fixed him with my eye, and asked, “Do you know a lot about wines?”

He hesitated. “I know a bit,” he said cautiously.

“We want a mauve,” I said.

“I beg your pardon, sir? A mauve?”

“Yes. Preferably a wine named Mauve, but we’ll settle for just the label.”

He blinked. “Uh… I’m afraid I don’t know that vineyard. Or varietal. I assume it’s a red?”

“No, it’s more of a purple. Or a maroon.”

“I think it’s more of a pink,” Marta added.

The clerk shook his head and made a slight choking sound. In the end, we had to search through the racks ourselves. We came up with several bottles that looked about right, including a wine called Purple Cowboy.

“That’s purple,” Marta complained.

“It’s just called purple. That label is definitely mauve.”

We paid for the wine, and as the checkout clerk was boxing it, I stopped her.

“Which one of these labels is mauve?” I asked. She bit her lip and considered, then pointed to the pink one.

I scowled. “What about that one?” I asked, pointing to the Purple Cowboy.

“That’s purple,” she said.

Tomorrow night I’m going to eat dinner, drink my Purple Cowboy, and let other people talk.